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Coldest air in years spills into Southeast Alaska

Clear and cold day over Auke Bay
Clear and cold day over Auke Bay(Adam Tietz)
Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 8:38 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Jack Frost is exhaling and, in doing so, bringing some of the coldest air to Southeast Alaska in years. High pressure over the Yukon continues to strengthen, which is not only opening the flood gates for the bitter cold to spill into the Lower 48 but will play a huge role in just how cold Southeast Alaska gets in the coming days.

The capital city is already seeing the impacts of this cold, as temperatures are steadily falling. By 5 p.m. Monday temperatures dropped to the single digits for the third day in a row. This trend will continue into Tuesday as the winter rollercoaster ride begins its descent into the frigid territory. Temperatures will likely fall to subzero values by Tuesday morning.

What’s impressive about the upcoming weather pattern is the strength of the high pressure over Canada, which weather models are depicting could exceed 1060 mb. Essentially, the stronger the ridge of high pressure, the deeper we go into the deep freeze.

As such, the panhandle is gearing up for temperatures that haven’t been seen in this area since 2012. Thanks to rather gusty winds spilling in over the mountains, temperatures will both stay cold and will feel even colder as the wind chill takes effect. This will lead to Juneau and a large portion of Southeast struggling to climb out of the single digits, a feat which is hard to do for an area that typically sees one day below 10-degrees per year.

Juneau’s Coldest High (2010-2020)Number of days below 10°Juneau’s Coldest Low (2010-2020)
5°- Forecast for February 9, 20210 Days-4° - Forecast for the morning of February 9, 2021
15° - January 17, 20200 Days2° - January 13, 2020
15° - February 2, 20190 Days4° - February 3, 2019
15° - January 10, 20180 Days4° - February 10, 2018
12° - December 30, 20170 Days1° - December 31, 2017
19° - December 8, 20160 Days2° - December 13, 2016
12° - February 7, 20150 Days6° - February 7, 2015
16° - February 11, 20140 Days0° - February 12, 2014
14° - November 19, 20130 Days5° - January 29, 2013
7° - January 17, 20122 Days2° - January 17, 2012
8° - January 14-15, 20112 Days1° - February 24, 2011
18° - December 20, 20100 Days3° - December 20, 2010

If the forecast verifies and temperatures drop below zero for Juneau, it will be the coldest morning the area has seen since January 2009. That’s a contrast to what most of this winter has looked like thanks to more pronounced atmospheric river events, which bring in warm, wet and windy conditions.

Like all forecasts, there is a silver lining for the Southeast. Thanks to the cold, Arctic air that will spill into the region there will be plentiful sunshine and drier days ahead. Arctic air is significantly drier air, meaning little cloud cover will be present and the sun will be shining from sun up to sundown. This will also lead to radiational cooling through the night, as the clear nights will allow any heat to rapidly escape into the atmosphere, as opposed to the cloudy nights. As a result of this and the winds riding in over the mountains transporting the colder air, dangerous wind chills can be expected for parts of the Panhandle. Many areas will see wind chill values between 15 and 30 below zero and as low as -55 along the Klondike and Haines highways.

The cold doesn’t last long, as temperatures are poised to return near 30 degrees at the close of the week. Until then, bundle up and buckle in as the coldest air of the season and in years make a pitstop in Southeast.

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